By Dayo Benson, Political Editor
IN less than five months, precisely, February 6, 2010, electorate in Anambra State are expected to go to the poll to elect a governor of their choice. Governor Peter Obiâ€™s tenure expires March 17 by virtue of Supreme Court verdict. Obi who is seeking a second term intends to run on the ticket of his factionalised party, All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA.
He has bought his nomination form from Chief Victor Umeh-led faction of the party. Similarly, Chief Chekwas Okorie, incidentally recognised by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is also selling nomination form. The two sides have been trading words over the issue.
In Action Congress, AC, former governor Chris Ngige is the sole candidate of the party. Son of Anambra deputy governor, Emeka Etiaba has left APGA for the Peoples Progressive Alliance, PPA. All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, Labour Party and National Democratic Party, NDP, are also expected to field candidates for the poll.
However, the stateâ€™s political terrain has changed sinceÂ the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, sold its nomination form and screened 47 aspirants to contest the party primary. No doubt, Anambra governorship poll promises to be interesting because of its peculiar political character.
It is against this backdrop that pertinent questions arise: Beyond picking of nomination forms by aspirants across parties, how prepared are the political parties for the exercise? How prepared are the would be candidates and how does the electoral law affect them? Is INEC ready for this election? If it is, what are the guidelines and when will they be made public?
Is there provision for Anambra election in 2009 budget? If there is not, is there a supplementary budget? Which voters register does the commission intend to use? If there is an existing one, has it been updated and if not, when will it be updated? Have constituencies been delineated for the exercise and if it has not, when will it be done? What type of polling units, ballot boxes and ballot papers will be used for the election? Has INEC embarked on voters education in the state? These are some of the questions begging for answers as the election approaches.
Below are some of the relevant provisions of Electoral Act 2006 and 1999 Constitution, which are the existing laws that will guide conduct of the poll.
On voters registers update, SectionÂ 11of Electoral Act 2006 provides that:
(1) Without prejudice to Section 10(5), there shall be continuous registration of all persons qualified to be registered voters.
(2) Each applicant for registration under the continuous registration system shall appear in person at the registration venue with any of the following documents, namely: birth or baptismal certificate, National passport or identity card or driverâ€™s license or any other document that will prove the identity, age and nationality of the applicant.
(3) The Commission shall within sixty days after each year make available to every political party, the names and addresses of each person registered during that year.
(4) When a general election is notified by the Commission pursuant to Section 31 of this Act, the current official register of voters certified by the Commission in accordance with the provision of this Act shall be the official votersâ€™ register for those elections and in the case of every by-election conducted under this Act, the official votersâ€™ register for use at such elections shall be the existing current register relating to the SenatorialÂ district or the constituency concerned.
(5) As soon as claims and objections have been dealt with or the period for making claimsÂ andÂ objectionsÂ hasÂ expired,Â the supplementary list shall be included in the revised register, which shall be certified by the Commission as the official register of voters for the purposes of any election conducted under this Act and supercedes all previous registers
Section 10(5) says the registration of voters, updating and revision of the Register of voters under this Section shall stop not later than 120 days before any election covered by this Act.
(6) The registration of voters shall be at the registration centres designated for that purpose by the Commission and notified to the public.
It is doubtful if there is provision for the election in this year’s budget. The issue is even compounded bythe fact that INEC, like other federal agencies is expected to return its unspent allocation by November. So where will the Commission get funds to conduct Anambra election? Section 155 of Electoral Act 2006, provides thus:
The Commission may prescribe:(a) a scale of remuneration for officers appointed under this Act for the conduct of elections;
(b) a scale of maximum charges in respect of other expenses incurred by an Electoral Officer, a Presiding Officer or a Returning Officer in connection with an election, and may revise the scale as it thinks fit or expedient.
(2) An Electoral Officer, Presiding Officer, or Returning Officer shall, in addition to any remuneration prescribed under paragraph (a) of subsection (1 )of this Section be entitled to such sums in respect of expenses not exceeding the prescribed scale, in connection with the conduct of an election as are reasonable.
(3)Â TheÂ CommissionÂ Â mayÂ Â payÂ such honoraria as it may determine to all other persons and officers who may be involved in one way or the other in conducting an election under this Act, or in carrying out any task in connection with an election or election petition arising therefrom.
(4) All fees and other remuneration approved under subsection (I) of this Section shall be charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation and shall be paid in such manner as the Commission deems fit.
Political paties are expected to submitÂ names of their candidatesÂ to INEC according to Section 32 of Electoral Act 2006, which states that:
(1) Every political party shall not later than 120 days before the date appointed for a general election under the provisions of this Act, submit to the Commission in the prescribed forms the list of the candidates the party proposes to sponsor at the elections.
(2) The list shall be accompanied by an affidavit sworn to by each candidate at the High Court of a state, indicating that he has fulfilled all the constitutional requirements for election into that office.
(3) The Commission shall, within 7 days of the receipt of the personal particulars of the candidate, publish same in the constituency where the candidate intends to contest the election.
(4) Any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate in the affidavit is false may file a suit at the High Court of a state or Federal High Court against such person seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false.
(5) If the court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit is false the court shall issue an order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election.
(6) A political party which presents to the Commission the name of a candidate who does not meet the qualifications stipulated in this Section, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500.000.00.
(7) Every political party shall not later than 14 days before the date appointed for a bye-election by the Commission submit the list of candidates from the party for the bye-election.
In view of two senators aspiring to be governor in the state the question then arises:Â can a serving Senator contest for governorÂ while he retains his seat?Â Section 68 of the 1999 Constitution says:
(1) A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if
(d) He becomes President, Vice-President, Governor or a Minister of the Government of the Federation or a Commissioner of the Government of a state or a Special Adviser.
On the kind of ballot papers and boxes to be used,Â Sections 44 and 45 of Electoral Act 2006 state:
44(1) The Commission shall provide suitable boxes for the conduct of elections.
(2) The forms to be used for the conduct of elections to the offices mentioned in Section 47 of this Act and election petitions arising there from shall be determined by the Commission.
(3) The polling Agents shall be present at the distribution of the election materials from the office to the polling booth.
45(1)The Commission shall prescribe the format of the ballot papers which shall include the symbol adopted by the Political Party of the candidate and such other information as it may require.
(2) The ballot papers shall be bound In booklets and numbered serially with differentiating colours for each office being contested.
Will the Anambra governorship poll comply with these provisions of the law?